Monday, December 10, 2007

Why try?

One of my friends asked me recently why I am standing for election to the Society for Technical Communication Board of Directors. After all, I ran several years ago and lost by 21 votes, so why risk public humiliation one more time?

I guess the short answer is because I think I can be of service. Technical communication has been good for me over the years; it has put a roof over my head and put food on the table. I've met interesting people, worked at energetic companies, and been part of inspirational teams. Plus, the constant vocabulary lessons have been good for my Scrabble game. So on many levels, I feel the need to give back.

I believe in the old electoral adage, "If you don't vote, you can't complain." Stated another way, if you don't participate in elections with your vote, you shouldn't really vocalize your displeasure with how things are run. STC members are like any other members of professional organizations -- voting participation is anemic. But taken to the next level, is just voting enough? Shouldn't members work hard as volunteers, finding ways to plug into the organization and work to make it better?

I think they should. Over the years, I have served the Society in many, many roles. In each case, I like to thing I got something back in return. When I ran the Employment committee, I learned a lot about sending out email blasts, including the last-minute triple-check that saves so much public embarassment. I also made a lot of contacts with local employers, and got first-hand glimpses about many of the managers in the local area. When I served as a competition volunteer, I started really inspecting my own documentation as a judge would see it, and I like to think that made me a better writer.

So now comes the chance to work for change at a national level. I know that a lot of members are disappointed that dues rose significantly, and I hear complaints about the Transformation that I admit I am sympathetic to. At the same time, I have met (and worked with) some of the Board members, and I believe they voted in some of the more controversial measures based on the best information they had at the time. Change is always painful if it is significant. Yet people adapt and move on. We are resilient.

Plus, many of the age-old complaints are still out there. Organizations sometimes discount our value. Engineers sit on reviews and complain about deadlines. Our managers seem to face continually dwindling budgets. Outsourcing is a real threat. Still, tools continue to evolve and schools continue to churn out graduates. Life goes on.

If elected, I plan to bring a lot of energy to this new task. I plan to do my homework, come prepared to meetings, and communicate back to members as best I can. I know that I'm a longshot to win -- being based in the Pacific Northwest, I don't have what you would call a big constituency backing me. So I'm realistic, if not fatalistic. There are eight great candidates for only four openings, and it is an honor just to be included in the group, come what may.

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